Economic Development

The economic development funding provided by the General Assembly has been critical to providing valuable and impactful business and technical assistance to both startup and existing Iowa companies. It has also been instrumental to supporting the formation and growth of entrepreneurship educational activities which are essential for future innovation and economic growth. The translation of university discoveries and technologies has proven to be critical and a driving force for state-wide innovation and job creation. More importantly, it is necessary for the long-term growth of a sustainable, innovation economy that will position Iowa to be competitive in a global market. 

Economic development is a top priority for Iowa State University. In 2016 ISU was designated as an Innovation & Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in recognition of its strong commitment to economic engagement and its work with public and private sector partners in the state and region to promote economic development. 

Last year, Iowa State University’s Economic Development and Industry Relations (EDIR) team provided business and technical assistance and training to more than 6,100 Iowa businesses and helped nearly 300 new businesses get started. The outcomes reported by clients were almost 7,700 new and retained jobs and an approximately $915 million impact on the state economy in terms of increased sales, cost reduction or avoidance, and capital infusion. Additionally, the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship reported more than 5,000 students participated in programs and classes focused on entrepreneurship, startups, and small business. 

Funding is used to support the university’s efforts to improve, connect, and leverage the strengths within the institution and allow better alignment of its economic development efforts with those of the state government and the needs of Iowa industries.

Small Business Development Centers

The Iowa Small Business Development Centers’ (SBDC) purpose is to assist existing businesses and new entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and improve their internal operations to ensure their continued success. It achieves its purpose by providing educational opportunities through workshops, but primarily and most effectively, through one-on-one counseling. Such counseling is, by Congressional mandate, provided at no cost to the client.

Last year, the SBDC counseled 4,044 clients, which created 1,845 jobs; helped companies attract over $108 million in new capital; helped companies grow sales by more than $111 million; and helped to create 293 new businesses. This translates into a new business every 30 hours and a new job every 5 hours. Clients of SBDC increased their sales by more than $9.3 million every month and raised over $9 million in capital every month.

Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) Technology Assistance Program

CIRAS provides one-on-one applied research and technical assistance services to Iowa companies to help them prosper and grow. The program also conducts research of interest to industry sectors specifically targeted for growth by the State of Iowa.

Last year, 1,616 businesses from 96 Iowa counties received assistance on projects or attended educational workshops from CIRAS’ staff and partners. Companies responding to surveys reported nearly $680 million of total economic impact. The numbers include: $600 million in sales gained or retained; $44 million in new investments; $35 million in costs saved or avoided; and 5,741 jobs added or retained.

The Technology Assistance Program – one of four programs under CIRAS – provided services to 214 distinct businesses. Companies responding to surveys reported $125.8 million of total economic impact and 310 jobs created or retained from the technology services they received.

CIRAS has leveraged the Technology Assistance funds to increase the federal funding and fees it receives through its existing Department of Defense and Department of Commerce grants. Funds will be used to expand applied research, technical assistance, and education services provided to Iowa businesses.

Iowa State University Research Park

Serving as the gateway to the Cultivation Corridor, the ISU Research Park (ISU RP) is a hub of collaboration, innovation, and development to elevate Iowa as a global center for excellence in agbiosciences and advanced manufacturing.

The ISU RP is closely connected with the university, but operates independently to help tenants reach proprietary goals, and assist companies in a setting that encourages entrepreneurial ventures and working relationships with Iowa State students and researchers. More than 80 companies who employ 1,700 employees call the Park home, occupying roughly 600,000 square feet. Current ISU RP tenants account for more than $100 million annually in economic activity. In addition, companies that started at the ISU RP that have since expanded or relocated elsewhere in Iowa and employ an additional 2,500 employees.

The ISU RP is an innovation community and incubator for new and expanding businesses. The Park also assists startup Iowa-based companies develop their potential and nurtures scientific and technological entrepreneurial ventures. Two programs based at the park – the ISU Startup Factory and the Ag Startup Engine – are the foundation for a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. Thirty-six companies have joined the Startup Factory and 27 are still in operation. Companies in the program have created more than 50 jobs and attracted $5.6 million in external funding.

ISU RP is in the midst of a significant expansion, which is doubling the developable acreage and adding commercial amenities such as a restaurant, fitness center, child care facility, parks, and walking/biking paths.

The ISU RP is paving the way for the next generation of thought leaders and employees.


Visit the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations website.